I’ve been an NHS nurse for 15 years. Here’s why I’m going on strike

NHS sign
NHS nurses have voted to go on strike for the first time in their history

Original article republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

OPINION: As nurses announce strikes in December, the Tories must start paying them fairly to save the NHS from collapse

Holly Turner

25 November 2022, 12.00am

The first-ever national strikes of NHS nurses will take place on 15 and 20 December, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced.

The RCN, whose members made history by voting for direct action across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has accused the government of “choosing strike action” by refusing to negotiate on pay.

Other health unions, meanwhile, continue to ballot their members across both England and Wales, while strike mandates have been achieved across Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Direct action will now take place in all corners of the NHS, including ambulance services. These ballot results are evidence that there has been a dramatic shift in mood among health workers over the last year.

In 2021, I wrote for openDemocracy about a general feeling of despair among colleagues. By contrast, everyone now appears angry and focused, a feeling that I think has been encouraged by the recent wave of strike and trade union activity across other industries.

We hear reports of the NHS in crisis, hospitals running at capacity and dangerously low staffing levels. But without working within these services, it’s impossible to truly understand what this looks like for staff, and the patients these staff are doing their best to care for.

What staff are witnessing first hand is a catastrophic breakdown of services that has left us with vacancies hitting 135,000 and patients in danger. We desperately need to focus on retention of staff: without addressing that, we have no chance of tackling the backlog of seven million patients. Sadly, neither the government or opposition ever bring retention into the conversation, because that would mean putting pay restoration on the agenda.

In a recent survey by the GMB union, one in three ambulance staff said they had been involved in a delay that had resulted in a person dying. This is a terrifying statistic, and just one of many that the government should be taking far more seriously.

Staff are not prepared to stand with their hands behind their backs while the NHS is ripped apart in front of our eyes

What we are now witnessing are increasingly extreme attacks from the right-wing press and commentators attempting to demonise us, and to guilt us into abandoning our fight for what we are owed.

However, as I commented to a colleague, nothing they can say about us will be as bad as what staff are witnessing day in, day out. Things cannot continue as they are, and staff are not prepared to stand with their hands behind their backs while the NHS is ripped apart in front of our eyes.

I have worked as an NHS nurse for 15 years. I love my job. But my pay, and that of my colleagues, has been deliberately eroded for over a decade, with some workers up to 29% worse off in real terms. What we are left with is a group of workers carrying the entire burden of keeping patients safe, while the government washes its hands of any responsibility or accountability for the state of the service within which they work.

These are the staff who find themselves skipping breaks, working overtime for free, selling back their annual leave to make ends meet, sleeping in their cars as they cannot afford fuel to and from work – and ultimately quitting, as the moral injury of delivering substandard care is not sustainable.

We should all be united in our outrage. While this is an industrial dispute about pay, the fight is about so much more. During the pandemic we witnessed the devastating impact of dramatically increased demand on an NHS that has been stripped to the bone. We cannot let this happen again.

This is why we are taking our fight to this government and standing up not only for ourselves, but for our families and communities, and for the future of the NHS. So when the time comes, and it will, please join NHS staff on the picket lines.

Without action now, there will be no NHS left to fight for.

Original article republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Continue ReadingI’ve been an NHS nurse for 15 years. Here’s why I’m going on strike

Policing bill: MPs have one last chance to protect the right to protest

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/mps-have-one-last-chance-to-protect-the-right-to-protest/

MPs are preparing to vote next week on some of the most controversial anti-protest measures left in the government’s notorious policing bill.

Amnesty UK has urged MPs to “follow the lead of their colleagues in the Lords in taking a stand against the power-grab” when the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill returns to the Commons on Monday.

Last month, the House of Lords rejected a string of proposals that would have given police in England and Wales increased powers, including the power to stop and search anyone at a protest “without suspicion”.

Karla McLaren, Amnesty UK’s government and political relations manager, told openDemocracy: “The right to protest is a cherished part of the fabric of our society and it’s profoundly disturbing that the government is trying to gag people like this.

Continue ReadingPolicing bill: MPs have one last chance to protect the right to protest

What nationalising energy companies would cost – and how to do it

UK could bring National Grid and retailers in-house and build public renewable energy, says ex-Labour policy chief

Andrew Fisher

17 August 2022, 12.01am

Image of banknotes and a prepayment meter key by Lydia, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Republished from OpenDemocracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

When 62% of Conservative voters want energy run in the public sector, it’s fair to say the left has won the argument (75% of Labour voters agree, 68% of Lib Dems).

Yet public ownership is opposed passionately by the Conservative government, while the leader of the opposition has said he is “not in favour” of it – despite his election on a platform that committed to “bring rail, mail, water and energy into public ownership to end the great privatisation rip-off and save you money on your fares and bills”.

Public ownership is on the media’s radar, too. When Labour leader Keir Starmer announced his policy to freeze bills this week, he was asked why he wouldn’t also nationalise energy, replying that: “In a national emergency where people are struggling to pay their bills … the right choice is for every single penny to go to reducing those bills.”

But so long as energy remains privatised, every single penny won’t. Billions of pennies will keep going to shareholders instead.

The energy market was fractured under the mass privatisations of the Thatcher governments in the 1980s. It contains three sectors: producers or suppliers (those that produce energy), retailers (those that sell you energy), and distribution or transmission (the infrastructure that transports energy to your home).

It is important to bear this in mind when we’re talking about taking energy into public ownership. We need to be clear about what we want in public ownership and why.

By 2019, Labour had a detailed plan on how to do this – worked up by the teams around then shadow business and energy secretary Rebecca Long Bailey and then shadow chancellor John McDonnell. The plan is not the only way, but it illustrates what exists and how one could go about re-establishing a public energy ecosystem, run for people not profit.

The recent TUC report shows the cost of nationalising the ‘Big 5’ energy retailers – British Gas, E.ON, EDF, Scottish Power and Ovo – to be £2.8bn, which would go on buying all the companies’ shares. That’s a lot of money, equivalent to more than the annual budget of the Sure Start programme in 2009/10 (its peak year). But it’s a one-off cost, not an annual one.

And it’s not like the current privatised system doesn’t have its costs: since June 2021, the UK government has spent £2.7bn bailing out 28 energy companies that collapsed because they put short-term profits ahead of long-term stability – companies like Bulb Energy. We have spent billions of pounds already to get nothing in return. So £2.8bn is not a large amount of money to pay to gain these assets, rather than just bailing them out.

The big energy retail companies made £23bn in dividends between 2010 and 2020 according to Common Wealth, and £43bn if you include share buy-backs. What you choose to do with that surplus in public ownership is another matter: you could use it to invest in new clean energy or to lower bills or fund staff pay rises, rather than subject your workers to fire-and-rehire practices as British Gas did last year.

Labour’s previous plan also involved taking the distribution networks – the National Grid – into public ownership. This would end the profiteering at this level, too – with £13bn paid out in dividends over the five years prior to 2019. As Long Bailey said at the time, we need “public driven and coordinated action, without which we simply will not be able to tackle climate change”. Like previous nationalisations, the purchase of the grid and distribution networks could be achieved by swapping shares for government bonds. By international accounting standards, the cost is fiscally neutral as the state gains a revenue-generating asset, which more than pays for the bond yield.

The final part of the plan – and the most complicated – is production and supply. It would be impossible to nationalise the oilfields of Saudi Arabia or Qatar – and for good reasons we should want to leave fossil fuels in the ground, anyway, rather than contest their ownership.

And so what Labour proposed in 2019 was a mass investment in new renewable energy generation projects, with the public sector taking a stake and returning profits to the public. For example, under the ‘People’s Power Plan’, we proposed 37 new offshore wind farms with a 51% public stake, delivering 52GW alone by 2030, equivalent to 38 coal power stations. There were additional proposals for onshore wind, solar, and tidal schemes, as part of a 10-year £250bn Green Transformation Fund, which included other schemes like the Warm Homes insulation initiative.

Labour’s new shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has promised a similar level of investment – a £28bn a year climate investment pledge.

Any surplus energy would then be sold on international markets, with a People’s Power Fund – a sort of sovereign wealth fund – to deliver public investment in local communities’ social infrastructure: a genuine levelling-up fund, perhaps.

Many people will say this can’t be done, but of course it has been before. The 1945 Attlee government nationalised energy and successive Conservative governments – including those of Churchill, MacMillan and Heath – were happy to have a nationalised asset. Harold MacMillan famously accused Margaret Thatcher of “selling off the family silver” when she privatised state industries.

When I was born in 1979, the National Coal Board, British Gas and British Petroleum were all publicly-owned or majority publicly-owned companies. Between them, they were the major suppliers of our energy. Our gas bills came from British Gas and our electricity bills from our regional electricity board (in my case Seeboard, the South Eastern Electricity Board), and coal and oil fuelled our power stations.

The regional electricity boards had been brought into being by the Attlee government’s Electricity Act 1947, when electricity companies were forcibly merged into regional area boards and nationalised. The Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 and the Gas Act 1948 had together brought energy into public ownership.

Seeboard was privatised in 1990, and later became part of EDF Energy – ironically, the nationalised French energy company, whose profits from the UK’s stupidity are used to subsidise French consumers.

The French government has now fully nationalised EDF (previously it was 84% publicly owned), and household energy bills rose by just 4% this year – compared to over 50% in the UK and a forecast 200% by January 2023.

If Starmer doesn’t want to listen to me (or his own commitments from 2020), perhaps emulating the centrist Emmanuel Macron in this instance would be palatable?

From the depletion of fish stocks to the burning of the Amazon, profit has proved a failed regulator for use of our natural resources

In his later years, Robin Cook argued: “The market is incapable of respecting a common resource such as the environment, which provides no price signal to express the cost of its erosion nor to warn of the long-term dangers of its destruction.”

From the depletion of fish stocks to the burning of the Amazon, profit has proved a failed regulator for use of our natural resources. The market has also failed to decarbonise at pace, or to end the scourge of fuel poverty.

On the media this week, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband said Labour is “continuing to look at what the right long-term solution is for our energy system”. It is up to all of us to campaign for that solution to be public ownership – whether that’s from within the Labour Party (like me) or from the outside.

Republished from OpenDemocracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Related at OpenDemocracy

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On energy strategy, the government is leaving women in the cold

Continue ReadingWhat nationalising energy companies would cost – and how to do it

2020 was worst year on record for UK government secrecy

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/freedom-of-information/2020-was-worst-year-on-record-for-uk-government-secrecy

openDemocracy has an exclusive report exposing the depth of the government’s attack on the Freedom of Information Act

Last year was the worst on record for government secrecy, new research by openDemocracy has revealed.

Just 41% of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to government departments and agencies were granted in full in 2020, down from 43% the previous year.

This is the lowest figure since records began in 2005.

The findings are published in openDemocracy’s new report, ‘Access Denied’, which exposes the extent of the government’s attack on FOI.

It follows a major investigation by openDemocracy last year, which revealed how a secretive Cabinet Office unit called the ‘Clearing House’ vetted sensitive requests for information.

A judge subsequently criticised the government for a “profound lack of transparency” that might “extend to ministers”.

parliamentary inquiry into the Clearing House – launched by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in the wake of openDemocracy’s revelations – opens this week.

The Access Denied report also finds that some government departments have far lower FOI disclosure rates than others, with the Cabinet Office among the worst offenders, along with the Foreign Office and the Department for International Trade.

Transparency campaigners say “urgent action is required” and that there needs to be a “sea change in attitudes towards FOI within Whitehall to avoid it spiralling it into an accountability black hole”.

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Continue Reading2020 was worst year on record for UK government secrecy

OpenDemocracy starting legal action to defeat Boris Johnson’s UK government evasions of scrutiny and accountability

Why we’re taking the UK government to court to protect Freedom of Information

OpenDemocracy is taking legal action over the Cabinet Office’s ‘Orwellian’ Clearing House that vets FOI requests and could breach data protection law

openDemocracy is going to court to force the British government to release full details about its controversial ‘Clearing House’– a secretive unit inside Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office, which is accused of blocking sensitive Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

In November, openDemocracy revealed that the ‘Orwellian’ unit in the Cabinet Office was vetting FOI requests and sharing personal information about journalists across Whitehall in ways that experts believe could be in breach of the law.

The Cabinet Office has refused to disclose full details about the Clearing House operation under the Freedom of Information Act – despite the FOI watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, ordering it to do so in July 2020.

Now openDemocracy is going to an information tribunal in a bid to force transparency on the Clearing House.

On Thursday 29 April, a first-tier tribunal will hear the case. openDemocracy has instructed Leigh Day, a firm of public law specialists, to argue its case and has received support from across the British media.

Continue ReadingOpenDemocracy starting legal action to defeat Boris Johnson’s UK government evasions of scrutiny and accountability

NHS in crisis :: Unpatriotic militants? No, Jeremy Hunt – doctors are just fighting to be able to care for us all.

Clare Gerada on the strike by junior doctors.

 

Image of George Osborne asking where is the money to be made in the NHS

Unpatriotic militants? No, Jeremy Hunt – doctors are just fighting to be able to care for us all.

Being a doctor – or any public sector worker – shouldn’t be such a battle. That’s why we must support junior doctors in their planned strikes.

For the last 9 years I have been the medical director of an NHS service providing confidential help to doctors and dentists with mental health problems, seeing a rising number of doctors week on week.

But our patients have changed.

In our early days the ‘typical’ patient was an older male (GP or psychiatrist) with alcohol problems.

Now nearly half of all new patients are under 30 years old. They come to us with depression, anxiety and symptoms akin to posttraumatic stress disorder. Many have worked in the NHS only a few years. They started out bushy tailed and bright eyed, but end up ‘burnt-out’ (a polite euphemism for depression) after only a few years working. Our youngest patients are only a few months qualified and many are in their Foundation years.

Patient after patient talks of feeling betrayed and bewildered by their loss of enthusiasm about a profession that they had strived to enter (often since their early teens). How their desire to care for patients is sapped by every working day. The language they use to describe their work is that of the battlefield. Being on the ‘front-line’, of ‘surviving’ another shift, being ‘at war’ with management. They talk of feeling abandoned by the NHS. Of working intolerable shifts that appear to have been designed by robots with no concept that humans will need to work them. Of having no sustenance – literally and metaphorically – as they try their best to deliver care to patients.

They talk of working in an unforgiving environment – where every error will lead to punishment and where every move is watched and recorded. They describe the fun having gone out of their profession. They say that they cannot see a future any more in medicine.

Hardly surprising therefore that the numbers progressing through training (from the early Foundation Years to the start of specialty training) is reducing. That now nearly half of doctors are not progressing. And that this is against a background of fewer of our brightest entering medicine in the first place.

Our junior doctors are striking for more than pay and conditions – important though these are. Their planned strike is consciously or unconsciously action to shine a light on what is going on within the NHS – to shine a light on the conflict between idealism and industrialization.

Increasing privatisation has changed the relationship doctors have with their patients. Constant reorganisation has fragmented services, and shattered long-standing teams. At a series of NHS listening events I held in 2014, the overwhelming term used by all NHS staff to describe their working environment was ‘Fear’.

The pay of junior doctors has never been good – not when calculated across the hours worked, the responsibilities they have and when compared to their non-medical peers.

But this was part of the compact we all had – we gave our all for our patients and the organisation we worked in gave their all to us – cared for us, nurtured us, trained us.  We also knew that the intolerable hours would end as we climbed the medical career ladder. Now all of this has been fractured.

Instilling ‘fear’ in doctors, teachers, nurses and other public sector workers is deliberate government policy – as explicitly set out by Cameron’s policy guru, Oliver Letwin, in 2011.

The new junior doctor contract will erode not just pay but also the current safety net against exploitative hours of work. Saturdays will be counted the same as week-days (tell their children that when they are off school and wanting to see Mum or Dad). Women and others who take career breaks will be discriminated against. Junior doctors have been forced to look into the abyss and chose between pain today (strike action) or pain tomorrow (agreeing to an unfair and unsafe contract). They are being treated as children rather than the committed adults they are – their please ignored, instead accused by Jeremy Hunt of being ‘extreme’, ‘militants’, and even unpatriotic.

The junior doctors are not alone in their discontent. The nurses who are marching this Saturday, the teachers and social workers, in fact most public sector workers have seen insecurity, exploitation, fear, and subtle discrimination as the backdrop to their working lives.

The junior doctors are fighting for fairness for all of these workers.  They are leading the charge for a restoration of the values that should drive our public services. For a change by those who employ them – ultimately our Government – who have a moral duty to protect those who care for some of the most vulnerable in society.

Without this change, goodwill will disappear forever and with it the glue that binds our public services together. The government must now stop their bullying tactics and accept that something is profoundly wrong the NHS today and act before it is too late.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

 

Continue ReadingNHS in crisis :: Unpatriotic militants? No, Jeremy Hunt – doctors are just fighting to be able to care for us all.

NHS in crisis :: Not fair, not safe – 6 reasons junior doctors are preparing to strike

Not fair, not safe – 6 reasons junior doctors are preparing to strike
by Nick Carpenter

Image of George Osborne asking where is the money to be made in the NHS

The junior doctor contract governs the pay and conditions of work from doctors’ foundation year to registrar level. All doctors who are not consultants or fully qualified GPs are considered ‘junior’ doctors. This contract was scheduled for renegotiation, but the British Medical Association (BMA) – the largest representative body of doctors – walked away because the offer on the table was not fair to doctors and not safe for patients.

The government’s initial response was brazen, and threatened to impose the new terms without consultation – a position it has had to water down since the BMA decided to ballot its members for strike action. Here’s why the BMA has done so the first time in 40 years:

  1. An NHS in crisis: overworked and undervalued.

Britain’s doctors have had enough. In a stretched and underfunded health system which doesn’t train enough doctors and nurses to meet its own needs – or invest in the infrastructure needed for new hospitals and facilities unless aprivate contractor is taking a nice slice of the pie – the solution seems to have been ‘work harder and take up the slack’. According to the Royal College of Physicians, the NHS “remains reliant on doctors working longer than their contracted hours…the amount of ‘goodwill work’ is increasing year-on-year.”

Trusts struggling to pay their tithes to the private owners of NHS hospital buildings have responded by reducing staff salaries, meaning fewer doctors and nurses are covering more patients and expected to do so for free. The situation has reached crisis point and doctors are experiencing enormous burnout, with more doctors applying to live abroad every year. Into this context came the new contract.

  1. It’s not about the money.

The ‘offer’ of the new contract has been condemned first and foremost as fundamentally unsafe. Just as with the recent tube strike, the new contract threatens to force doctors to work longer and later with fewer safeguards.

The BMA approached negotiations acknowledging financial limitations but determined to improve safety: it wanted no doctor to work more than 72 hours in a week; no more than four nights in a week on-call; a rest day either side of nights before starting back on day shifts; and facilities to sleep-in for those who otherwise make a dangerous long drive home.

The government was unwilling to accept these terms, and furthermore wanted to reduce breaks to just one 30 minute break in a ten hour on-call shift. As a recent viral video asked, could you save a life if you’d been up all night?

  1. But it is, also, about the money.

The new contract would mean a 15-40% pay-cut depending on your specialism, with GPs and emergency care doctors being some of the hardest hit. Let that sink in.

With wages starting beneath the national median anddecreasing yearly like all public sector pay, and out of pocket expenditure for licensing, exams and indemnities, junior doctors earn significantly less than the tabloids would have you believe. Their reports often use a cunning sleight of hand: taking the figures for the pay of those doctors doing the most private work – GPs who run a private practice and some consultants who run private clinics – and presenting the data as proof of ‘greedy’ public sector workers.

There are two ways doctors’ starting wages increase: extra pay for unsociable hours, and pay advancement as you progress through the ranks of seniority and responsibility. Both of these are under threat in the new contract.

The government has suggested that working from 7am until 10pm Monday to Saturday are sociable hours – and therefore should not be paid extra – which is funny considering MPs just reduced their own working hours and increased their own pay. As for pay progression with seniority, no actual offer was made.

  1. The changes hit women hardest.

The contract changes penalise those who take time out to start a family and those who work part-time –overwhelmingly affecting women in both cases. Additionally there are concerns that changes to breaks will make work more dangerous for pregnant women. As noted above GPs will be amongst those taking the largest wage cut, one of the few specialisms with more women than men.

  1. No confidence in Jeremy Hunt.

More than 200k people signed the petition to debate a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Hunt. He wrongly and infamously implied that doctors don’t work at night or weekends. After blaming the A&E crisis last winter on people attending inappropriately (rather than, say, the reduction of roughly 13k hospital beds over the last five years), Mr Hunt felt it was appropriate to take his own children to A&E rather than wait for an appointment like, you know, the rest of us commoners.

But most of all:

  1. This was an imposition, not a negotiation.

Hunt and the government have shown a complete disdain for even the barest semblance of actual negotiation. When the BMA walked away from negotiations a year ago, it wasn’t as a strategy to get better terms, it was because the negotiations were a farce. It has taken the threat of industrial action for a pathetic attempt at reconciliation to come from the Department of Health, full of vague, unconvincing rhetoric. It is too little, too late. No fruitful discussions can continue with Hunt as health secretary. We have no reason to believe in his word or his competence.

We deserve more. Doctors do not take strike action lightly. Whilst we will always maintain emergency and essential services, the BMA will be balloting its members to strike against the contract in the next month. We hope to see you on the picket lines.

 

  • About the author: Nick is a junior doctor. He tweets at @ZastaNick.This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

 

Continue ReadingNHS in crisis :: Not fair, not safe – 6 reasons junior doctors are preparing to strike

NHS in crisis :: The billions of wasted NHS cash no-one wants to mention

England’s Junior doctors held a 24-hour strike from 8am yesterday. It was the first of a planned series of strikes. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the Green Party should be commended for their support of the strike. (The strike only applies to England).

[15/1/16 11.10am The Labour Party’s position on the strike is complex, ” … Labour’s health spokeswoman Heidi Alexander had explained to them that the party would stand by its policy of not supporting industrial action.” John McDonnell joined junior doctors despite Labour agreement to not endorse strike]

While it’s very tempting to address the strike, today’s featured article instead addresses a fundamental problem with the NHS which is largely ignored by corporate media – that of the huge bureaucratic overhead of imposing a fake, imaginary ‘market’ so that the private sector can extort it’s ‘tax’. The conclusions to be drawn from this article should be clear.

Image of George Osborne asking where is the money to be made in the NHS

The billions of wasted NHS cash no-one wants to mention

Continue ReadingNHS in crisis :: The billions of wasted NHS cash no-one wants to mention

UK politics news

A small selection of news articles about UK and international politics …

Continue ReadingUK politics news

Commentary and analysis of recent political events

The government is trying to pass a clause in the Care bill today that will allow hospitals to be closed much easier without public consultation.

Hospital closure clause battle heats up today

Stormy scenes are likely in parliament today as the government tries to “rush through” changes that will make it far easier to close hospitals without public consultation. The changes,which OurNHS has campaigned on from the start, now face fierce opposition from doctors, 38 Degrees, the British Medical Association, NHS campaigners and charities.

On Friday Ed Miliband tabled a motion of opposition to the Bill, saying it “includes provisions which could put NHS hospitals at risk of having services reconfigured without adequate consultation and without clinical support”.

The hospital closure clause gives Trust Special Administrators greater powers including the power to make changes in neighbouring trusts without consultation. It was added to the Care Bill just as the government was being defeated by Lewisham Hospital campaigners, in an attempt to ensure that campaigners could not challenge such closure plans in the future. But the new Bill could be applied anywhere in the country.

Louise Irvine, Chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, said “If services need redesigning the law must ensure this is with proper and extensive consultation with local people. This process cannot be rushed. Decisions should not be based on the needs of investment banks. What happened to the government promises that in the NHS there would be ‘no decision about me, without me’?

OpenDemocracy appears on the Want to make a worthwhile donation this Solstice? page

Ed Miliband commits to doubling the number of homes built each year. The move is likely to prove very popular. I think that he’s correct in recognising development and building as a racket concerned with profiteering. I would also like to see the renovation of properties and the conversion of buildings to homes or other forms of social housing.

Ed Miliband promises drive to double rate of housebuilding

Profiteering property developers that hoard land and councils that block developments will be swept aside in a “non-stop drive” to more than double the number of homes being built each year in England, Ed Miliband will promise on Monday.

Attacking “stick-in-the-mud councils”, the Labour leader will say he would order a national planning inspectorate to give priority to local authorities that want to expand if they are being blocked by neighbouring councils refusing to release land.

Under the Labour plans, councils would be empowered to compulsorily purchase land or charge fees if developers fail to build on land for which they have planning permission. Michael Lyons, the chair of Labour’s new independent commission on housing and a former BBC chairman, told the Guardian that Britain needed to recapture the postwar spirit when building homes was the national priority.

Despite MPs claiming publicly that they object to their intended pay rise, only 10 MPs back a motion to limit their pay rises to 1% to match the public sector.

Cuts to care funding mean half a million fewer looked after, study finds

Almost half a million fewer old and disabled people are receiving care and support from the public purse than would have been the case before the financial crash, according to an expert study.

The research comes as MPs vote on Monday on the coalition’s care bill, which aims to overhaul the care system in England but threatens to tighten still further the rules of eligibility for state support.

Charities and care organisations are calling on ministers to address a “black hole” in social care funding which they say has left the system short of £2.8bn a year that would be necessary to meet people’s needs assessed as “moderate”.

Bridget Warr, chief executive of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, said: “Funding good care which helps people stay in their own home is not only a moral responsibility for any civilised society, but is also cost-efficient as it extends people’s wellbeing, reducing admissions to A&E, and helps people return home from hospital quicker.”

Continue ReadingCommentary and analysis of recent political events